Dr. Terry Christopherson did not always know that he was meant to be an optometrist. “Dr. Jack Larsen started this practice in 1949 and I fell in love with his daughter,” he said. The rest, as they say, is history.
Christopherson was born in Grantsburg and moved to Amery as a freshman in High School. He graduated in 1969. Christopherson obtained his pilot’s license at the age of 17 and thought he might be entering the service.
He attended the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire for three years before heading off to the Illinois College of Optometry (ICO) in Chicago, graduating in 1976 with honors. Christopherson said, “The competition to get into Optometry school was pretty stiff. There were 2500 applications for 155 positions. The first year was torture. There were 155 incoming freshman, but only seating for 130 for the second year. So they were going to flunk out at least 25 people.” He shared that he was the first person from Amery to attend ICO. After that, he mentored several young people in the community and wrote them Letters of Recommendation. “We have had at least seven people from the small town of Amery go on to become Optometrists which is unbelievable for a town our size,” he said.
After returning to Amery he began working with his father-in-law, Dr. Larsen who worked out of the Amery Clinic with Doctors Arneson, Ford and Mara. Christopherson bought the business in 1978 and spent decades in his building on Arlington Avenue. Eight years ago, he purchased the former Dental Arts building on Keller Avenue North and moved his practice there.
He feels that the patients have made it a very worthwhile career for the past 43 years. “I enjoy seeing the same people come back year after year. I have liked getting to know each of them and their families,” he said. He takes pride in knowing that he may have saved a few lives during the years. He has discovered some brain tumors and cancers during his examination of eyes.
During his school years he worked as a lifeguard at the Amery city beach. “We had cheap sunglasses and sat out in the rays all day long. I got a great suntan, but I am probably paying for it now,” said Christopherson. He would like to stress the importance of wearing good sunglasses and protecting your eyes from the blue light of today’s common devices like computer and phone screens.
The torch that was handed to Christopherson by Larsen is now being passed down to a third generation. Christopherson’s son Bryce who came to work with him eight years ago is now purchasing the practice from his father.
Bryce said, “Growing up I got to see firsthand what the eye clinic was like. I thought it seemed like a pretty good job. It offered you the opportunity to work with people in the community, which I liked,” Bryce took a round about path, attending school, taking a break to work, then returning to school. “It all worked out,” Bryce said. He has greatly enjoyed having patients in the eye clinic who were old friends of his grandparents and thinks it is fun to hear old stories about them. Bryce hopes to do a good job carrying on his dad’s legacy. He believes his father has taught him patience and that he has been a great role model.
Christopherson’s hard work did not stop when he left the doors of his eye clinic. He has tirelessly given his time and talents to organizations in the area. His interest in giving back started at an early age. During his years in Eau Claire, he was a member of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity where he helped run blood drives and participated in the Big Brother program. He was an Amery Boy Scout Merit Badge Counselor and Senior Patrol Advisor. Christopherson has coached Little League Baseball and football, as well as hockey. In 2014 Christopherson received the Knight of Sight Fellowship Award from the Amery Lion’s Club. He has put in considerable time over the years volunteering at First Lutheran Church. He has served on the boards of the Amery Foundation, Amery Jaycees, Fall Festival, Alpha Optical and Amery Community Club (serving as President in 1989). He served four years on Wisconsin’s Optometric Association Board of Directors and in September will receive Life Membership Honors.
Christopherson said he wishes he could work longer, but he has run into some health issues. He developed an eye disease a few years ago. He has battled Rocky Mountain spotted fever and at one point, Christopherson lost most of his voice and could only whisper for approximately three years due to Spastic Dysphonia.
When offering words of advice to his son Christopherson said, “Take care of things everyday. Do not let things slide. In our profession no guy knows everything, if you are unsure, refer it out.”
He is going to miss his patients as well as the staff he has been able to work with over the years. Kristi Larson was with him for approximately 27 years. He is leaving his present staff, Diana Cain-Peterson, Pamela Priebnow and Charissa Smith in the hands of Bryce. There will be an Open House to celebrate both the retirement and new ownership taking place at Christopherson Eye Clinic Friday, June 28, from Noon to 4:30 p.m.
In retirement Christopherson is looking forward to spending time with his grandchildren and checking off more parks on his list of visited National Parks.